Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A birthday in Saudi and a night in Bahrain

Hi all,

So it was my Birthday about a week or 2 ago. Thanks to everyone who phoned/emailed/GTalked me or got in touch in some way, was really cool to hear from you guys. I hear you are all partying it up, I'm not quite so lucky. But I did manage to do something for my birthday. I got a glass of real (Not Homebrew Sadeek) Johnnie Walker whiskey, which is the equivalent of cocaine or something here. So that was cool. Then got then to this restaurant that I can only describe as pan-asian, it served food literally from every place in between Arabia and Japan. The food was really cool, we got a dish each and then shared. Odd thing is restaurants here don't seem to ever have music, which doesn't sound like it should strike me as really odd, but it did.

After that we went to a furniture store to look at some furniture for the place they want to move allot of the company employees into. You see there really isn't much to do in terms of fun here, so westerners begin to look for fun in more obscure places, like shopping. So shopping here turns into a huge quest, where every single show must be checked, and then every shop owner must be haggled with, and then this must be repeated until the absolute lowest price has been found. this process can take several months. But its made easier by the layout of the shops. Geographically shops are grouped by function. So all the tailor are together, all the gold shops are together, all the food stores are together. Hence the street of dress makers from the last email. allot of really huge Malls have been built here too, I try to stay away from them cause they seem like a weird little plastic America, and malls without cinemas or bars are pretty boring.

So my birthday was pretty uneventful, luckily I got a chance to make up for that.

One of the guys I'm working for, Stuart, had to go back to RSA, he flew out on Valentines day, from Bahrain. Whenever anyone goes to Bahrain its an excuse for all of us to tag along. Because as you should remember Bahrain is allot cooler than Saudi. Once again I was hit by the difference between Bahrain and KSA immediately. Bahrain is clean, and nice, and the new buildings aren't all modeled after a borg cube. Bahrain is like Saudi's play park, but their economy is being diversified away from oil (Which ran out in Bahrain a while ago I think).

There are 2 types of bars (Proper bars, not dancing girl clubs) in Bahrain, Hotel bars and the other type. Generally you start the day at a hotel bar, and end at the other type. We started the day at the Ritz Bahrain. Which looks like an awesome hotel, but I found out that the Beachside Villas cost 1000 dinars a night, which is about R20 000. A round of drinks, 5 beers cost 13 BHD (Bahrain dinar) which is about R260. after that I stopped keeping tabs on how expensive everything was going to be.

We went to the Souk (market is closest translation), which is huge warren of tiny streets all filled with tiny shops. Its a place where you can buy just about anything, covering a few city blocks. The buildings are all 3 or 4 stories tall and old. I'm not sure how you are meant to find anything you're looking for, and in a way I'm surprised I ever found my way out. I stopped and had tea at this tiny Indian cafe place, I think I was the first white person to evr step inside it. When i say tiny I literally mean I had to bend down to stand. But I found out they serve like 500 cups of tea a day, it was good tea though.

Our next stop was the pub at the Radisson Hotel in the diplomatic quarter, where apparently you have to be diplomatic to everyone you meet. It was a cool pub, but could have been anywhere in the world. I got pretty drunk. But that is what you do when you go to Bahrain from Saudi. All the good bars in this part of the world have DSTV (Illegally), cause the satellite here is all American and crap.

Then we went on to the next bar, Diggers,a perfect example of the other type of bar. Diggers is allot of fun. But there are somethings you notice as you go in. Mainly that every single women in the bar, that isn't in the band or working as a bar girl, is a chinese prostitue. And I mean every single one, and there were lots of them. Which is a bizarre sight, come to the middle east to be surrounded by broken engrish. Its also hell of a creepy to see allot of Fat old english/american expats with a young Asian girl hanging on their arm, caue you know that relationship is of only one type, the fincanicial type.

The band was awesome, like all the rock bands here they were Filipino, but were hitting covers from sheryl crow to led zeppelin. They had a girl guitarist, who was amazing, she seemed like one of the best guitarists I'd ever seen (But that may be skewed cause I was really drunk). I ended up singing 'stairway to heaven" with the lead girl singer (These bands seem to have lots of singers, cause they do covers, normally two girls and a guy, the bands have about 7 or more members). It was good to see some live rock music again.

After spending allot of time at diggers we finished off the night with a whiskey at one of those Russian dancing girl places. I'm suprised we managed to crawl back across the causeway into Saudi in one piece. My body was not prepared for the hangover the next day. Total Cost per a person for the evening R1000 about, I didn't even bother keeping a proper count. Fun is expensive here.

Otherwise I have been working allot. So not much more to report. Except that people here find it very strange that I'm South African. At first everyone says british and then when I south African, they look surprised and say things like, "But you're white. I thought Africans were black". One guy at the local food joint wouldn't believe me until I eventually showed him my passport.


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